I know I’m a little late to the party here but several people have been asking me what I make of the V&A’s bizarre decision to ban all sketching at its exhibition on underwear.
I’m perhaps not as outraged as some are at it, as I do harbour a controversial view that sketching in art galleries – certainly in the paintings exhibitions – teaches one to look at something two dimensionally. Copying the representation of three dimensions (say a bowl of fruit) in a two dimensional format (i.e. a Cézanne painting of bowl of fruit) into another two dimensional format (your own sketch) doesn’t teach you very much about how to draw things from life, only an individual version seen in one painting. I’ve never understood why schools insist on children or pupils copying a painting. When it comes to three dimensional objects however that’s another matter: draw a sculpture, a pot, or even some underwear, and you are instantly using the part of your brain that interprets three dimensional space into two, rather than having had that task already done for you. There is also the added pleasure of testing your drawing skills from innumerable angles which reveals more and more about the object you are studying. So a trip to the cast courts at the V&A – especially the top balcony where you can look down – teaches you much about capturing form.
Except the cast courts apparently aren’t at risk of overcrowding: the V&A insists that the banning of drawing in the underwear exhibition is to keep the traffic flowing, avoiding congestion. This itself is offensive in that one should be allowed to linger – or not as the case may be – over an artwork as long as one wishes. I’m terrible in this regard, unashamedly standing with my nose an inch away from the canvas for annoyingly long periods when I see something really interesting. It pisses people off, but then more often than not people get intrigued by why this loser is so absorbed over this painting, and then themselves muscle in to have a closer look than they probably would have otherwise. #PassiveAggressiveArtViewing. Visual stimulation is not something that should be rushed, or laboured over, and in the eternal fight to get people to look with their eyes rather than their smartphones it kind of misses the point to then insist they move on, like a really great restaurant insists you turn tables. If the V&A opens all hours to accommodate people wanting to see Bowie or Alexander McQueen, I’d rather people could sit and sketch than – god forbid – take selfies which any idiot knows takes more room than sketching and is supremely inane. Upon my first visit to MOMA in New York last month, my experience was ruined by the Jackson Pollock room which was basically a stopping ground for selfies. This is a most bizarre decision by the V&A. Can someone please sit and do a drawing class so we can see how this ridiculous rule is enforced?